On Saturday, former President Barack Obama addressed the graduates of the USA via a webcast called, “Graduate Together: High School Class of 2020 Commencement,” an event organized by XQ Institute.
As always he was articulate and a pleasant reminder of a time when choosing your words carefully and expressing yourself succinctly was valued.
The media will diminish his speech to the level of popular politics. They will look for criticism of the current administration and focus on the negative. I want to draw attention to Obama’s messages for young people…and all of us.
Barack Obama was aspirational in his message to graduates, laying down the challenge, “If the world is going to be better, it’s going to be up to you”. He said, “With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you, “No, you’re too young to understand” or “This is how it’s always been done.” Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.”
He then presented three pieces of advice. It was advice for not only America’s youth but for young people worldwide. He implored them:
1. Don’t Be Afraid
First, don’t be afraid. America’s gone through tough times before — slavery, civil war, famine, disease, the Great Depression and 9/11. And each time we came out stronger, usually because a new generation, young people like you, learned from past mistakes and figured out how to make things better.
2. Do What You Think Is Right
Second, do what you think is right. Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up.
I hope that instead, you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others. You won’t get it right every time, you’ll make mistakes like we all do. But if you listen to the truth that’s inside yourself, even when it’s hard, even when it’s inconvenient, people will notice. They’ll gravitate towards you. And you’ll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
3. Build A Community
And finally, build a community. No one does big things by themselves. Right now, when people are scared, it’s easy to be cynical and say let me just look out for myself, or my family, or people who look or think or pray like me. But if we’re going to get through these difficult times; if we’re going to create a world where everybody has the opportunity to find a job, and afford college; if we’re going to save the environment and defeat future pandemics, then we’re going to have to do it together. So be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights. Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path.
You can watch the speech here…
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